India Night 2018

I was promised food and entertainment and that is exactly what I received at India Night this semester. Student dance troupes performed their sets representing many different regions of India in traditional dance styles. Interwoven with these were contemporary dances they had put together to depict their cultural identity as college youths. Additionally, short skits were performed from several of the troupes that had previously been on the stage. The graduate tutor on my dorm floor, Suchithra Dhanaveerapandian, was included in several performances and, I have to say, she stole the entire show. She was absolutely marvelous. Their best performances… Unfortunately, the crowd got antsy very quickly at the prospect of food and so they rapidly headed for the door, completely ignoring the dancers on stage. While that upset me slightly, the dancers also recognized that people were wrestling for the food we had been promised.

So, once we had all fed ourselves, the rambunctiousness

  • Performed dances from each region of India
  • Dance teams performed skits (traditional/contemporary)
  • hella food (catered Indian traditional food)
  • everyone fought to leave early to get to the food. Very excited
  • Suchi performed & was good. Stole the show w/ her troupe (was hip-hop-esque)
  • celebrated culture
  • people were hella loud

Term Reflections from a President

I wasn’t sure how I would manage being co-president of French club as a freshman, but this semester has given me quite a lot to think about. Somehow, I ended up being both the youngest and most dependable one of us which I definitely didn’t expect. Of course, you have to take into consideration that the others are further along in their programs and have much less time (not that I have much to speak of either) to plan, arrange, and attend meetings and events. That leaves my young self to be the life force of this tiny group. It’s a quest I bear with honor, to be sure.

Honestly, I feel like more French was learned and exchanged, both language and culture-wise, than in the previous semester. We also managed to meet on a consistent basis. Furthermore, French exchange students attended! This was a major achievement brought on by a delicate combination of begging, recruiting, extensive Facebook messaging, and luck. In fact, Genna (our most enthusiastic native French member) started attending as part of a project for her marketing class.

We did, however, also have our share of bumps in the road. We never did get university funding. My predecessor left with little warning and no paperwork completed which meant we then missed the deadline to apply. That was a major hurdle, but we made do and plan to do better in the future. Of course, then there was the arrest and the subsequent scramble for us (mostly me) to find an interim faculty sponsor for French Club. Luckily, I had previously made some connections in the department and managed to pull something together. All in all, it’s been a wild ride. Let’s see if I get elected again? (Bonne Chance!)

Mardi Gras 2018

So, a holiday with a French name will not escape being celebrated by OU’s French Club. Amongst friends, food, and not-so-subtle decorations; fun was had and some French was spoken. It was an interesting experience discovering how native French people view the “western” celebration of Mardi Gras. Having been a Catholic nation for such a long time, I wasn’t shocked when I was informed that it’s a much more… solemn holiday in France itself. Though, I wonder if that’s just because we throw bigger, wilder parties in the Western Hemisphere?

Despite it being thrown in a club dedicated to France and French culture, there was a distinctive non-French feeling attached to everything we did. Upon further thought, that could be because three of the four leaders of the club (including myself) have lived in Louisiana in our lifetimes. As any American should know, Louisiana doesn’t hold back during Mardi Gras. Once the celebration starts, you can practically feel the ground vibrating with the overwhelming exhilaration. (I should probably note here that the punch French club served was 100% non-alcoholic. It’s a university requirement.) We provided a very toned-down experience for our less-experienced guests so as not to overwhelm their senses all at once.

Overall, though, I would say it was a great experience and even if we didn’t participate in “traditional” French culture surrounding the holiday, we did learn quite a bit about the differences from native French people themselves. Besides, everyone had fun and perhaps we’ll do a better job next year.

The Iranian Youth’s “Non-Movement”

Subversive youth cultures have existed throughout human history and across the globe. In fact, most changes and developments in “acceptable” human behavior can be attributed to “non-movements” or “silent protests”. By not actively opposing the regulations already in place, youths are able to spread ideas and the like farther without arousing ire from those in power. Because of this, there is also little that can be done by authorities to prevent “youth culture” from spreading. In recent decades, Iran has displayed this phenomenon consistently through a variety of actions opposing the country’s status quo.

Underground, silent protests are most effective when they remain under the radar of the conflicting establishment. When a particular set of behaviors have been adopted en masse, it’s much more difficult to control a large number of people all participating in it. For instance, when Iranian youths began dating, people under 30 years old made that change in a relatively short period of time. Therefore, the regime couldn’t realistically prevent so many from engaging in an activity they didn’t approve of. This, then, would lead to other behaviors cropping up across the nation and the regime would be forced to continue turning a blind eye to it in order to keep the peace. However, this then instilled a sense of courage in the Iranian youth to continue pushing the boundaries of what they could “get away with” and eventually, some began to question the regime in a more direct manner.

Subversive culture integration techniques aren’t new in human society, but the Iranian youth have shown that it continues to be effective, no matter how ancient.

More On My Co-Presidency

So, it’s been almost five months since I have begun my position as co-president of OU’s French Club. So far, it’s been nothing if not interesting. Between finding interesting topics for meetings, budget mishaps, deadlines missed by my (our) predecessor, and an inconsistent membership base; it can sometimes be hard to remember that I chose to do this because I love French Club. Common knowledge upholds the idea that once something you were going to do anyway becomes a chore, you lose interest and motivation. Thankfully, that has yet to happen in this regard, but I can feel my enthusiasm waning with each new meeting with a group attendance below ten.

Fortunately, those who do attend club meetings are very positive, curious people who are always willing to follow along to whatever experimental idea my three presidential peers and myself have concocted for that particular week. Thus far we have attempted group-reading French children’s books, French slang lessons presented by our wonderful French exchange members, and en-masse discussions of French culture. Most people, one can assume, would question the practicality of leaving four underclassmen in charge of a university-sponsored program with little to no oversight, but we have taken all that has been thrown at us so far including being excluded from university funding, having only one leader with a considerable knowledge of our associated language, and even having to find an emergency replacement to fill our faculty liaison position. However, j’adore mon club et sa spontanéité.

*Rien n’est jamais parfait.*

Issues In Modern Brazil

Brazil has gone through periods of both international fame and complete obscurity within the late 20th and early 21st centuries alone. Most of Brazil’s fame has been as a result of the country’s wealth proceeding the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. Hosting these events requires an extensive amount of funding and Brazil’s selection highlighted the nation’s wealth of the time. However, foreigners to the country noted several less than ideal aspects of life there.

The wealth gap, while continuously lessening over time, remains quite prevalent. Government agencies have attempted to improve the situation of Brazil’s impoverished citizens, but have hit frequent opposition from the social elite among the population. Those belonging to the higher class, who are accustomed to certain luxuries, are, of course, less than pleased with the prospect of losing those luxuries even if doing so would benefit their fellow citizens. This, in turn, has impacted recent political developments as the populace is divided on where they stand on multiple issues, but this one in particular. Therefore, politicians must choose which demographic they wish to appeal to. This divides them and decreases the chance of a majority support because people are much more likely to vote against someone who embodies views that conflict with their own than they are to vote for someone who agrees with them. Money plays more than one key role in modern Brazilian politics as corruption due to bribes from lucrative oil companies tainted the most recent election. Because of these things, Brazil has now emerged once more from relative international obscurity, though now in a generally negative light.

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Teachers’ Strike (Oklahoma 2018)

The American education system is a source of shame in the eyes of many across the nation and there is just cause for concern. Over the past few decades, most other developed countries have surpassed the United States in terms of performance, quality of education, quality of facilities, teachers’ pay, and student health. Of course, there are some areas where these things are of a much higher quality than others, but the overall average of America is poor at best. Unfortunately, Oklahoma falls at almost rock-bottom within the already abysmal American system.

It’s an all too common sight to see teachers paying out of pocket for necessary supplies for their classrooms and sometimes even resorting to begging for charitable donations to do so. State budgeting has cut the funding an estimated 28% in the last decade alone. Due to the overwhelming lack of funding for education in the state, classrooms that do not receive this “self-treatment” from the teachers who occupy them remain bare and without even the most basic things that most would deem necessary for any schoolroom anywhere. These things range from chalk/markers and informational posters to pencils and workbooks. Things many consider vital to the elementary and secondary education experience are missing and have only one real source to look to. With all of these added expenses in mind, the teachers’ salary appears to be even less.

Ranked 49th (out of 50) in the United States, public school teachers make less than $50,000 a year in Oklahoma. Not only does that impact the quality of life teachers can lead, but the lack of monetary pay-off keeps many from choosing a career in education. As a result, there simply aren’t enough teachers, so other routes are taken to fill those classrooms. One seemingly popular tactic is to issue “emergency certifications” which means, in theory, a nurse could be asked to teach biology despite not being trained as a teacher. Anyone with experience as a peer tutor can explain that understanding a subject doesn’t mean trying to teach it will be successful.

These and other issues have compounded over the previous years and teachers have reached a breaking point. A concept even some elementary students understand has driven these educators to the decision of a walk-out. If any child over the age of 12 is asked, and sometimes even much younger, they can tell you that their school makes money based on their standardized test scores. This is another complaint from teachers all over the United States that is being questioned on the federal level. The federal government grants money to states to then give to schools that perform well on standardized tests. So, the quality of education is impacted as teachers are then forced by the administration to “teach to the test” and compromise the education they are giving their students. In protest of this, the other issues mentioned, and many more; Oklahoma teachers chose to “walk-out” at the beginning of April which is when standardized testing begins. Therefore, if the state government doesn’t meet their demands, federal dollars flow out of their pockets. And they wouldn’t want that, would they?